Kaw Valley Arts & Humanities (Kansas City, KS)

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  Performer on a street stage

Bluesman Eddie C. Campbell performs at the 2003 Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival, a free community music festival. Photo by T. Michael Stanley

The Kansas City Kansas Street Blues Festival was started in 2000 to honor the rich heritage of blues music that originated in the city. The festival takes place in the Third Street neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, a hotbed for blues in the 1950s through 1970s. The KCK Street Blues Festival focuses on performers who were born, raised, and lived in Kansas City, Kansas, or who played a significant number of years there. Such notable musicians as Albert Collins, Oliver Todd, Lawrence Wright, and Charlie Parker made the Kansas City area their home.

Kaw Valley Arts & Humanities, which runs the KCK Street Blues Festival, received an NEA Heritage/Preservation grant of $10,000 in FY 2003 to support the two-day festival’s fourth year. Over the four years, audiences for the free community festival have grown from 1,300 to more than 6,500 people.

KCK is a real street festival, closing down three long city blocks to stage the event, with side streets and vacant lots used for parking. Local musicians celebrate their culture and their community. Although held in a neighborhood with a reputation for crime, the festival has been held for four years without incident and proves to be a positive event for the community.

The performers for the 2003 event included nationally known bluesmen Lazy Lester, Bobby Watson, and Eddie C. Campbell, as well as less known but powerful local artists such as Myra Taylor, Eugene Smiley, and King Alex.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)